Lake Katharine, the Boathouse, and the Water System
Abundant natural water resources made it possible to build an estate incorporating extensive farms, gardens, housing, and a lake. Natural areas around water sources and a system of containment structures ensured water quality. A pumping system assured reliable delivery of water to locations where it was needed.
Approximately sixteen acres in size, Lake Katharine was created by constructing a dam to block the flow of Silas Creek and several other, unnamed streams that converged at the base of steep, wooded hillsides. The lake, which was more than twenty feet deep in some places, reached maximum pool by 1913. Sunset Hill, a grassy hillside framed by trees on the south side of the lake, presented a view of the lake from the residence. An orchard was located on the opposite side of the lake. Students and teachers of the Reynolda School staged a pageant, Hiawatha, on the lake and banks in 1923. Silt and sediment began to fill the lakebed shortly after construction; it was almost completely filled by the 1990s. Due to the presence of the dam, which blocks the exit of silt and sediment, and the streams that continue to flow through, the lakebed has become an artificial wetland.
The boathouse with Tudor design influences and cupola was completed by 1913. Inside, six private changing rooms opened onto a central hallway that opened onto a covered porch. Steps led down to the water from the porch to a wooden dock. Thomas Sears designed a terrace and landscape for the boathouse.
A self-contained water system provided all of the water needed by the estate. The main source, an artesian well, supplied sanitary drinking water for people and animals, as well as for irrigation and firefighting. A second system for irrigation was installed within a few years, utilizing water pumped from the lake. Several above-ground structures were built for the water system: the Irrigation Basin/Freshwater Swimming Pool; a pumphouse; and a cistern. Three ponds and an unnamed stream were located between the artesian well and the lake.
To learn more, see selected articles in The Gardener’s Journal, a publication produced by Reynolda Gardens staff for Friends of Reynolda Gardens.